Almost every Christian and almost every church has recited the Apostles Creed. I am not against this. But let me ask you a question: If you read this creed, how much would you find out about the humanity of Jesus? While there is a mentioning of his death under Pilate and his burial as well, would you ever read this and realize Jesus was Jewish? You may say, “Well of course he was Jewish and everyone knows that!” You would be surprised. Here is the creed:
“I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”
As James Dunn says,
“The more significance we Christians, recognize in Jesus, God’s self revelation in fullest form possible within humanity, the more we need to recall that this incarnation took place precisely in a Jew- Jesus the Jew”-The Parting of the Ways, Between Christianity and Judaism and Their Significance for the Character of Christianity, pg 258.
And as Craig Evans says,
” If the interpreter has found the proper context, his or her interpretation will be the better informed and more accurate for it. Becoming acquainted with Jesus’ Jewish context is a must for sound exegesis; finding it brings us much closer to the Jesus of history and of faith.”- Jesus and Judaism, Available at http://www.gci.org/jesus/Judaism
Building on what Dunn and Evans says, it couldn’t be more evident that without the proper context, we end up with a Jesus made into our own image. As Clemens Thoma says:
“Christians have torn Jesus from the soil of Israel. They have de-Judaised, uprooted, alienated, Hellenized, and Europeanized him. The consequences of these manipulations and whitewashings are hopeless confusion about the person of Jesus, the nature and tasks of Christianity, and the meaning of Judaism in religious history.”- A Christian Theology of Judaism, pg. 107.
As Anthony Saldarini says:
“Does Jesus the Jew—as a Jew—have any impact on Christian theology and on Jewish-Christian relations? . . . To wrench Jesus out of his Jewish world destroys Jesus and destroys Christianity, the religion that grew out of his teachings. Even Jesus’ most familiar role as Christ is a Jewish role. If Christians leave the concrete realities of Jesus’ life and of the history of Israel in favor of a mythic, universal, spiritual Jesus and an otherworldly kingdom of God, they deny their origins in Israel, their history, and the God who loved and protected Israel and the church. They cease to interpret the actual Jesus sent by God and remake him in their own image and likeness. The dangers are obvious. If Christians violently wrench Jesus out of his natural, ethnic and historical place within the people of Israel, they open the way to doing equal violence to Israel, the place and people of Jesus.
As Philip Yancey says,
“Is it possible to read the Gospels without blinders on? Jews read with suspicion, preparing to be scandalized. Christians read through the refracted lenses of church history. Both groups, I believe would do well to pause and reflect on Matthew’s first words, “a record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham.” The son of David speaks of Jesus’ messianic line, which Jews should not ignore; a title without significance for him.” Notes C.H. Dodd,”The son of Abraham speaks of Jesus’ Jewish line, which Christians dare not ignore either.” – P. Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew. 55.
Jaroslav Pelikan also makes a significant comment:
“Would there have been such anti-Semitism, would there have been so many pogroms, would there have been as Auschwitz, if every Christian church and every Christian home had focused its devotion and icons of Mary not only as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven but as the Jewish maiden and the new Miriam, and on icons of Christ not only as Pantocrator but as Rabbi Jeshua bar-Joseph, Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth?”- Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture, pg 20.
Even though this was written a ways back,
New Testament scholar Scot McKnight has made a great contribution to the continuity of Jesus’ relationship with Israel. He says:
“Scholarship is now recognizing that Jesus’ mission was directed toward the nation of Israel. This means that his understanding of God himself must be oriented toward an understanding of God that emerges from the covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, which guided the history of the nation to the time of Jesus. The God of Jesus, accordingly, is the God of Israel, who is now restoring the nation and renewing its people as he had promised long ago.”- McKnight, S, A New Vision For Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context, pg 19.
Given N.T. Wright’s massive work on understanding Jesus in his Jewish context, it will be interesting to see where we go as we move forward on this topic.